Xmas, Observed (U.S.) 2016

  1. What is the meaning of this city?
  2. More on “reality”
  3. Tidbits from The Great Divorce
  4. Dateline Bethlehem
  5. Biden on Clinton
  6. Trump’s Attorney General

Secondary Things


When the Stranger says: “What is the meaning of this city?
Do you huddle close together because you love each other?”
What will you answer? “We all dwell together
To make money from each other”? or “This is a community”?

(T.S. Elliot, Choruses from The Rock, quoted in Malcolm Guite, Waiting on the Word (meditation for December 23. I hope I have the first hyperlink correct.)

The trouble is they have no Needs. You get everything you want (not very good quality, of course) by just imagining it. That’s why it never costs any trouble to move to another street or build another house. In other words, there’s no proper economic basis for any community life. If they needed real shops, chaps would have to stay near where the real shops were.

(One of the wraith-like hellions in C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce, hoping to get something salable on his upcoming outing to heaven so as to set up shop in hell and, incidentally, stop the centripetal forces driving petulant hellions further and further out into hell’s alienated version of suburbia.)


Returning to a topic I touched on yesterday, C.S. Lewis writes of the hellions in The Great Divorce, when viewed during their outing to heaven:

They were in fact ghosts: man-shaped stains on the brightness of that air.

Then some re-adjustment of the mind or some focussing of my eyes took place, and I saw the whole phenomenon the other way round. The men were as they had always been; as all the men I had known had been perhaps. It was the light, the grass, the trees that were different; made of some different substance, so much solider than things in our country that men were ghosts by comparison.


Other tidbits from The Great Divorce:

You cannot take all luggage with you on all journeys; on one journey even your right hand and your right eye may be among the things you have to leave behind … If we insist on keeping Hell (or even Earth) we shall not see Heaven: if we accept Heaven we shall not be able to retain even the smallest and most intimate souvenirs of Hell.

* * *

‘Milton was right,’ said my Teacher. ‘The choice of every lost soul can be expressed in the words “Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.” There is always something they insist on keeping even at the price of misery. There is always something they prefer to joy—that is, to reality.

* * *

‘It means that the damned have holidays—excursions, ye understand.’

‘Excursions to this country?’

‘For those that will take them. Of course most of the silly creatures don’t. They prefer taking trips back to Earth. They go and play tricks on the poor daft women ye call mediums. They go and try to assert their ownership of some house that once belonged to them: and then ye get what’s called a Haunting. Or they go to spy on their children. Or literary ghosts hang about public libraries to see if anyone’s still reading their books.’

* * *

[A]t the end of all things, when the sun rises here and the twilight turns to blackness down there, the Blessed will say “We have never lived anywhere except in Heaven,” and the Lost, “We were always in Hell.” And both will speak truly.’

‘Is that not very hard, Sir?’

‘I mean, that is the real sense of what they will say. In the actual language of the Lost, the words will be different, no doubt. One will say he has always served his country right or wrong; and another that he has sacrificed everything to his Art; and some that they’ve never been taken in, and some that, thank God, they’ve always looked after Number One, and nearly all, that, at least they’ve been true to themselves.’

* * *

[B]eyond all these, I saw other grotesque phantoms in which hardly a trace of the human form remained; monsters who had faced the journey to the bus stop—perhaps for them it was thousands of miles—and come up to the country of the Shadow of Life and limped far into it over the torturing grass, only to Spit and gibber out in one ecstasy of hatred their envy and (what is harder to understand) their contempt, of joy. The voyage seemed to them a small price to pay if once, only once, within sight of that eternal dawn, they could tell the prigs, the toffs, the sanctimonious humbugs, the snobs, the ‘haves’, what they thought of them.

* * *

Every disease that submits to a cure shall be cured: but we will not call blue yellow to please those who insist on still having jaundice, nor make a midden of the world’s garden for the sake of some who cannot abide the smell of roses.’

I come away from The Great Divorce with the impression that the most spiritually debilitating thing in the world is to take one’s self too seriously — but that there are many ways besides vanity of doing so.

Tertiary Things


Dateline Bethlehem:

Christian clergymen welcomed the top Roman Catholic cleric in the Holy Land inside some church or other in Bethlehem, the birth place of Jesus Christ, as Christians worldwide begin to prepare to celebrate Christmas this year.

The Rev. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarchate, is the temporary chief clergyman to the local Catholic population. He traveled from Jerusalem to Bethlehem on Saturday in a traditional procession. Later, he was to celebrate Midnight Mass at the some church or other, built close enough for jazz or religious journalism to the grotto revered as Jesus’ birthplace.

“I wish this joyous atmosphere of Christmas will continue in the year and not just for a few days and I hope the coming year will bring a little more serenity and peaceful relations in our country. We need it,” he said.

(Associated Press, modified by Tipsy to reflect journalistic reality; H/T GetReligion, which identifies where the Mass actually was served with maps to make it clear that, once again, it was not at the Orthodox Church of the Nativity where A.P. habitually misplaces it.)


It was election eve, and Biden had just concluded the last of 83 campaign events he would headline on Hillary Clinton’s behalf. Something once again didn’t feel right.

Stepping off the stage after an at-times sentimental appearance in northern Virginia with Sen. Tim Kaine, the man he hoped would succeed him, the vice president shared a nagging concern with aides: Any enthusiasm among the crowd of several thousand was not about the party’s presidential nominee. . . .

In the interview, Biden pointed to questions that came even from members of Clinton’s inner circle, revealed in emails made public by WikiLeaks, about whether the Democratic front-runner had figured out why she was running.

“I don’t think she ever really figured it out.”

(Excerpt of Joe Biden story in the LA Times via the Wall Street Journal) Just hanging there, the quote might lend itself to some invidious theories of why Hillary ran. Biden doesn’t buy them. The LA Times continues:

Clinton’s decision to run did not reflect raw ambition or a desire to move back to the White House, he said, calling those characterizations  of her unfair. Instead, he said, he saw her decision to run as ultimately stemming from a sense of duty and her belief that her victory “would have opened up a whole range of new vistas to women” in a similar way that Obama’s had for African Americans.

“She thought she had no choice but to run. That, as the first woman who had an opportunity to win the presidency, I think it was a real burden on her,” he said.

Two other excerpts from the story, directly:

“What are the arguments we’re hearing? ‘Well, we’ve got to be more progressive.’ I’m not saying we should be less progressive,” he said, adding that he would “stack my progressive credentials against anyone” in the party.

“We should be proud of where the hell we are, and not yield an inch. But,” he added, “in the meantime, you can’t eat equality. You know?”

Asked about comparisons between his and Trump’s freewheeling rhetorical style and economic message, Biden seemed cautious to avoid directly criticizing the president-elect.

“I think there’s a difference between authenticity and …,” he said before pausing to choose his words carefully. “I don’t think I’ve ever said anything that I didn’t believe. Now maybe I shouldn’t have said it. But I believed it.”

Taking him at his word, Joe Biden apparently has (momentarily?) believed some obnoxious things his church opposes.


Jeff Sessions, Trump’s nominee for Attorney General, is a defender of one of the most evil and infuriating inventions of modern, punish-everyone-in-sight criminal “justice.” And I thank George Will for pointing that out.

Somehow, it seems fitting that a President who gladly will exploit widows by eminent domain abuse should appoint an Attorney General who’s cool with exploiting anyone within striking distance of a crime with civil forfeiture abuse.

* * * * *

“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.